Data from PSAP Survey Finds Problems with Locating Wireless Callers (4/24/14)
Thursday, April 24, 2014 | Comments

A pro-indoor location accuracy group released results of a survey of managers and dispatchers from public-safety answering points (PSAPs) who handle 9-1-1 calls in all 50 states, finding that most dispatchers have difficulty locating wireless callers through the location information provided by the carriers, particularly when they are calling from indoor locations.

In February, the FCC proposed rules to help emergency responders better locate wireless callers to 9-1-1, particularly in indoor locations.

The survey results and more than 200 personal stories of the challenges in locating wireless callers were submitted to the FCC to assist the commission in its consideration of a rule that would require wireless carriers to provide accurate indoor location data for wireless callers within two years. According to the survey of 1,014 PSAP managers and employees, the majority of emergency calls now come from wireless phones, but the location information they receive from carriers is unreliable and often inaccurate.

The survey found the following information:

• 76 percent of 9-1-1 calls now come from wireless phones, rather than landlines;

• 64 percent of those wireless 9-1-1 calls are made from inside buildings;

• 97 percent of 9-1-1 call centers have received a wireless 9-1-1 call within the last year from a caller who could not tell the dispatcher his or her location;

• 82 percent of 9-1-1 personnel don’t have a great deal of confidence in the location data provided to their PSAPs by the wireless carriers;

• 54 percent said that the latitude and longitude (Phase II) data provided by carriers that is supposed to show a caller's location is “regularly” inaccurate;

• 48 percent of respondents said that 9-1-1 calls are regularly misrouted to the wrong PSAP in their area; and

• 79 percent said they need accurate location information within 15 seconds of call arrival.

When asked about the proposed indoor accuracy rule, PSAP employees expressed near unanimous support, emphasizing its vital importance to public safety:

• 99 percent of 9-1-1 employees said they supported the FCC's proposed requirements for indoor location accuracy within two years;

• 99 percent said the adoption of that rule was "critically" or "very" important for public safety in their communities; and

• 94 percent opposed waiting an additional three years to implement the rule, as some carriers have proposed.

“These results are truly staggering,” said Jamie Barnett, director of the Find Me 911 Coalition, which conducted the survey. “The men and women on the front lines of our 9-1-1 system overwhelmingly say that they need accurate indoor location information to do their jobs and save lives, yet they are not getting it today. This survey, and the powerful personal stories of 9-1-1 employees from around the country, removes any doubt about the life-and-death urgency of the FCC's rulemaking on this issue."

The survey also found that significant percentages of PSAPs received wireless 9-1-1 calls from apartment buildings (93 percent), office buildings (88 percent), hotels (78 percent), retirement homes (70 percent), hospitals (55 percent) and college dorms (36 percent) during the past year.

Nearly every PSAP had received at least one call in the prior year from someone who could not be located because the caller was lost (90 percent), gave the wrong address (86 percent), spoke a different language (76 percent), was too young to know their address (73 percent), had Alzheimer's or age-related confusion (68 percent), was having a stroke or medical emergency (68 percent), or was deaf or hard of hearing (33 percent).

Forty percent of respondents said they regularly receive wireless 9-1-1 calls from callers who cannot verbally share a location. About 48 percent of respondents said they only sometimes, rarely, or never receive accurate Phase II location data with wireless 9-1-1 calls, and 54 percent of respondents said the issue of getting accurate location data is staying the same or getting worse.

The full survey results are available here.

For an opinion piece on why policy is necessary to fix 9-1-1 location accuracy problems by Barnett, former chief of the FCC's Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau (PSHSB) click here. For an article on why best practices are better than new 9-1-1 location accuracy policy, click here.

Your comments are welcome, click here.




 
 
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